Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Board Games: Zombicide (Season 1)

I do not have a brilliantly tactical mind.  You wouldn't employ me to be the person who decides when to press the big red button, and chess (never mind that 3d space chess) is beyond me.  It's not what I look for when I play games, I want an experience and some character.  I want soul.  I also want a really solid game that doesn't just come down to luck and I want something that's going to give me a different experience each time I play it.  I'm also a sucker for really nice components...

I have mixed feelings about Kickstarter (you can read about them here if you're so inclined) but I read an article about a really board good game that had been Kickstarter-ed called Zombicide.  Knowing that a friend of mine liked co-op games I picked up a copy of it for him... This was Zombicide.

Zombicide is a co-op zombie movie survival game.  You play a character (or two) and there are some objectives in the (very nicely produced) manual.  The game comes with a number of tiles which you arrange as pictured in the manual and with various tokens you can add which change the setup / layout like doors and objective markers and Pimp mobiles.  There is a nice tongue in cheek motif to the game.  The characters are archetypes (with clear references to various pop-culture icons (for example Doug is very clearly Michael Douglas from Falling Down)) and you can gain objects like Molotovs and chainsaws to defeat your enemy foes.
Zombicide Character
 None the less the game has a real survivalist feel to it.  Enemies spawn constantly and then shamble towards you at an ominous pace.  The 'theme' of the game is very very strong, it manages to capture that 'Walking Dead' feel (I mean the early films but that's not to denigrate the recent (excellent) tv series.) It is a game where you hold your breath when drawing a spawn card and as the numbers of zombies build up there is a visual sense of dread that accompanies the game!  It encourages some amusingly heroic actions (characters throwing their lives away in a sacrifice to the greater good or passing over weapons to save other people) and in my gaming group at least amusing anecdotal stories build up (like the one pictured below when Phil bit the bullet after his bromance with Doug!)

Zombicide Death

The game has quite simple rules.  You get a number of actions per round and if you end up in a square with a zombie on the zombies go it hurts you.  No ifs or buts, it just does!  There are four different types of zombie - walkers (they move one space toward you each turn), Runners (they move two spaces toward you each turn) and Fatties (who move one space, are accompanied by walkers and are harder to hurt) and abominations which are really hard to hurt but also only move one space).  As the game progresses you get new skills the more you kill, but as people 'level up' you get more zombies spawning each turn as well... sometimes leveling up is particularly bad!  Characters have different abilities and some choices to make as to  which skills they want which leads to some nice variation.  

The components are nicely produced - the card products are good quality, colourful and well illustrated. and the miniatures are lovely.  The game is produced by Guillotine Games  in conjunction with Cool Mini Or Not (I admit I'm not sure of the link but I think they're maybe run by the same people or something!) and so I suppose great figures should be expected, but that doesn't detract from the fact that they really are cool minis with lots of nice detailing!  I read that lots of people like painting them.  As ever I wish that there was some sort of better storage offered for the game.  It all just has to be thrust back into the box when you're done, but besides that I think that the box and all its contents are excellent.

Of particular note I like the idea of the noise mechanic (shooting guns makes a noise and if zombies can't see you they move toward the noise, whenever you make a noise you put a noise token down.)  There's a 'make noise' action choice to distract the zombies.  It's not brilliantly practical in general but it is a lovely idea.

The game is pretty tough.  It took us quite a few goes to beat the first proper mission, but I like that challenge and it was a buzz when we managed it!  


My only other criticism is a kickstarter related one... There are 6 characters that come with Zombicide and they're cool, but the original Kickstarter offered lots more as stretch goals and add-ons.  They can be found on the website... but I will never have them.  They were Kickstarter exclusives and (apparently) they can sell on ebay for huge quantities of gold coins!  I didn't care / wasn't worried about that for quite a while - but now I feel slightly like I miss out - it's always the same characters that I play with because we don't have the extras to choose from.  I know there needed to be incentives to get the game funded, and I'm glad that it was... and yet I still feel like I'm missing out.  [It's worth noting that I think I could download the stats and there are card generators for them too, but still...] 

Zombicide Season 2 + Expansion were recently on Kickstarter and I backed it quite heavily, I'll be getting lots of extra characters and even some add on characters... BUT even sponsoring it there were lots of characters that I am not getting (solely because each new one was an extra '$10' or similar) so I guess I'll still be missing out.  But at least I'll be able to look down at those people who haven't got them... Oh gosh I've joined the ranks of the Kickstarter Zombie Elite!!!  



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